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Search Engines: How do we know what’s best?

Posted by on in Search Engines
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If I was asked, why I would prefer one search engine over another, my typical answer would be ‘because it gives me the best and the most relevant results.’ Like me, most people select a particular search engine  becase they think that it gives better results for their search. But I  wonder how many of us would seriously reflect on selecting the ‘best’  search engine for our information need?

Most of us use the search engine that we have in our browser by default. Whether we are at home, office, school or university, we use a search engine that appears the moment we open a browser. We do not think and reflect on what’s best, but just stick to what is available to us and the one we feel would give us the best results. Google being the most popular search engine; a majority of people would simply Google what they want to find. Apparently, Google has one of the best search algorithms where it finds relevant pages and index them correctly. Also, its simplicity, speed, ability to retrieve relevant results and ease of use has made Google, a popular search engine amongst many.

However, the larger audience who use search engines seem to rank them based on its various aspects and their personal requirement. These can vary from its shopping features, news and entertainment features, SEO efforts, suitability for academic research and deep web research to merely the speed, simplicity, ability to search images, videos, etc. Some seem to be driven purely by the popular perception, where they would pick a search engine based on its popularity. Search engines too have branded themselves differently to appeal to these particular segments of the audience. So if a source claims that a search engine is better than the other, it may be referring to either one of these aspects.

Some of the basic features that people would consider in a ‘true’ search engine include;

  • Ease of use
  • Relevance of information
  • Accurate predictability
  • Ability to find information without much dependency on Boolean logic
  • Ability to filter out marketing content and present original content
  • Various tools attached to it (that can be helpful in doing a better search)

So, is there anything called the ‘best search engine’?

The answer is - it is difficult to draw a conclusion as to what is the best search engine? There are lots of search engines out there (apparently somewhere over 230!), and most have similar functionality and search algorithms, the only difference being the way in which they are depicted to the audience. For instance, Google seems to be more marketing oriented while Yahoo seems to focus more towards portal driven audiences. So, at the end of the day, finding what’s best for your search needs is somewhat complicated; the only criteria being your personal preference or in other words, what best fits your information need.

Here're few helpful tips I found through my search; 

  • If it’s a general search question that can be asked with a few keywords – Google and Yahoo are safe bets.
  • Need an answer quickly to a factual question - Answers.com, BrainBoost, Factbites, Ask Jeeves, Wolfram Alpha
  • Need results from multiple search tools - SurfWax, Ixquick, Search.com, Mamma
  • Need help in narrowing or broadening your search - Clusty, WiseNut, AOL Search, Teoma, Gigablast, AllTheWeb, SurfWax.

Bit more insight; if you are using a search engine for your general day to day information gathering, it is better to stick to the popular advice; ‘use more than one search engine to get better search results.' My experience also suggests the same. But, if you are a serious researcher, you may need more than a conventional search engine. You may need to check out meta crawlers (these search several search engines at once), specialized search engines (there are numerous specialty search engines focused on various subject areas) and sometimes even paid ones that are far more superior.

Some useful links;

To get an idea of 10 best search engines in 2014, check out this link: http://netforbeginners.about.com/od/navigatingthenet/tp/top_10_search_engines_for_beginners.htm

Also, if you want to check out plus and minuses of search engines at a glance, check out this link; http://library.albany.edu/usered/iguides/iguides-glance.html

A popular source when selecting a search engine is the following link: http://www.noodletools.com/debbie/literacies/information/5locate/adviceengine.html 

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